Words can create connection, and even help us fight infection, while we’re apart.
I miss hugs. I miss the way a good hug can stay with me all day. More than that, I miss being able to hug the friends I know are feeling especially lonely and vulnerable right now (which is pretty much everyone).
Hugs relieve pain, depression and stress. Fahad Basheer, MD, writes that hugging releases endorphins, which can block your pain pathways, and also boosts the production of dopamine in your brain. And NPR reports that hugging has a measured ability to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. But today, as we all live under the shadow of COVID-19, the hugging benefit I care about the most is that hugs can protect us from getting sick. Yep! Kind of a big deal right now. Carnegie Mellon researchers found that hugs protect people from increased susceptibility to infection.
And now here we are. Not hugging. COVID-19 has taken away the human touch that relieves pain, helps to manage stress, and can help us fight infection too.
But human touch is not the only way to build human connection. In my work I see examples everyday of people supporting each from a distance, following the death of a loved one. I’ve seen thousands of moments where simple, thoughtful text messages can feel like real, human hugs for people who are grieving.
Based on that experience, here are six suggestions for text messages we can send each other in this hug-minimized world, to help us stay connected while apart.
- The Gratitude Text Hi Sara. All this time to think has made me realize how very grateful I am for your friendship. Thank you for always having my back and being ready to listen. I miss you.
- The Memory Text Hi Mom. I was just remembering how much we laughed, that time we were trying to assemble the stroller together. I was so pregnant and uncomfortable, and we didn’t know what we were doing, but it was hilarious. That memory will always be special to me.
- The Thoughtful Gift Text Hi, Steven. I just left some beer and snacks on your doorstep. I wish I could come and sit on the porch and share a drink with you, but for now just know that I’m thinking about you, and looking forward to our next pub night.
- The Photo Text Hi Maria. I found this photo on my phone, from our trip with Carlos last year. You must be missing him right now, but maybe this photo will bring a smile for your face. Just look at how much he loved you. We’ll have smiles like this again, I promise.
- The Music Text Hi, Lindsay. You probably don’t know this, but this song always makes me think of you, and brings a smile to my face. Whenever I hear it, I think about our trip to Sonoma, and that late night bike ride home. Listen and enjoy.
- The Specific Offer of Help Text. Hi Tom. Can I take Rover with me when I go to the park this afternoon? I know you need to stay isolated, but I would love to have your pup with me for some fresh air, and will bring him back happy & tired.
I long for the day that we can all be together again. But in the meantime, reaching out to someone who’s self-isolating, grieving a loved one, or maybe just missing their normal life, can help us stay connected. Our words can feel like hugs, and can be healing while we’re apart.
Artwork by Pippa Cochrane, age 12
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